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Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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Like my brownhouse:
   flea crisis
Tuesday, September 8 1998

  was finally able to dial into AOL from Phoenix this morning and inform the world of my recent travels. It was good that I got that in during the morning when Rhonda was gone, because when she's home she's on the phone almost continuously, mostly dealing with her real estate investments.

In the afternoon, Kim and I went driving around Scottsdale to do some errands. At the last minute another errand was added to the list; somehow Kim lost the key to Rhonda's condo and, since it could not be found, we had to go make another one. The moral of this story: don't smoke pot when you have work to do in unfamiliar places.

Scottsdale sits in flatland surrounded by small, steep, odd-shaped arid mountains, some of which look to have been dolloped with lava still hot under the desert sun. Closer in the foreground, along the straight streets and avenues, several species of palms constitute the bulk of the large vegetation, though there are also a variety of small plants familiar from passing through the desert, as well as the Australian tree Eucalyptus, which has the bark of a sycamore but fragrant willow-like leaves. There aren't many especially many large cacti in Scottsdale.

Kim's Volvo had a good accumulation of dead bugs on it from thousands of miles of driving, and she was very eager to take it to a carwash. This was an alien sentiment to me; I've never washed a car in my life, and I've never seen any of my friends wash their cars either. Indeed, my father always sneered at those who wash their cars. He thought (and I agreed) that water and scrubbing only shortens the life of the paint job and that the benefits were purely cosmetic. But for Kim, washing one's car is an important chore that needs to be done. She comes from a world rather different from mine, and I didn't want to try to explain my philosophy on the matter. So we washed the car, using up a lot of quarters in the process. I wanted my money's worth, so when the car was all scrubbed and rinsed and I still had time left on the machine, I sprayed water up into the desert sky and marveled at the rainbow I made.

For lunch we ate at Pischke's, a dimly-lit restaurant with a strong Jimmy Buffet theme going on. The bartenders were all balding middle-aged white guys in Hawaiian shirts, and colourful decorations cover most of the surfaces. I ordered a horseradish-flavoured burger for more wasabi-like experiences like I'd had last night. All I wanted to drink in the entire world was lemonade; it was something about that dry desert heat.

The afternoon was spent back at Rhonda's. We took a nap, among other things.


n the evening, Rhonda had me replace a high ceiling light. When I made the mistake of showing her they could be swiveled like eyeballs to point in any direction, she wanted me to change the direction of another bulb as well. She is, I was learning, fussy and indecisive just like Kim's Mother. But we had an goose and the golden egg (or Matt Rogers and the motherboard) incident when I went to change the direction of the second bulb; it burnt out and needed to be replace.

Kim and I spent more time than I'd like to admit watching VH1 on cable teevee. The shows those guys come up with consistently amaze me with their originality. They've successfully taken the idea of the music video to another, meta-level, where it can be teased apart and have its cultural relevance entertainingly examined and extracted.

After Popup Video (which seems to borrow from the idea of hypertext), we watched the new show Rock of Ages, where various demographic groups are gathered into a room to watch videos and comment about them. For example, a group of middle-aged establishment religious leaders watched Marilyn Manson and Madonna videos, as did a group of Satanists, and their comments were presented in a marvelously entertaining back-and-forth format.

Next came Vinyl Justice, which is a bit sillier without being especially entertaining, though (again), it's a most original idea. Two guys posing as police officers stop people and ask to look through their collections of recorded music, and then write up amusing "tickets" for what they perceive as "music crimes."


omewhere in the midst of a series of VH1 Behind the Music documentaries (Steppenwolf, Eric Clapton, Elton John, etc.), Rhonda discovered a flea on Sophie. Everything went downhill from there.

It wasn't so much that Rhonda freaked out, which she sort of did, it was more that this one flea seemed to back up a few catty comments her sister Bettie had been saying about Kim and Sophie before we even arrived. You see, Bettie and Rhonda are very close and communicate by telephone on a regular basis. And (by way of background) the day before leaving Michigan, Bettie was angered when Kim failed to go grocery shopping for her grandmother. So when Bettie next talked to Rhonda, she was full of bad things to say about Kim. Bettie told Rhonda to watch out for Sophie, that the dog would be shitting on her carpet and chewing things up. Fleas may have also been mentioned. Now, as for me, I really don't know why fleas are such a big deal. I grew up with fleas so bad that if you spread out a map on the living room floor it would click like a geiger counter. But for these people fleas are absolutely intolerable in any number and to introduce a single flea into a place where there are none is considered a serious faux pas. So Kim was embarrassed and humiliated, made to feel suddenly like a Typhoid Mary. She had no idea where this flea had come from. It could have been anywhere along the way; Sophie had been flea-free in Michigan.

Rhonda and Kim soaked all three dogs in flea spray as an emergency measure, and then, for the rest of the evening (when she wasn't out in the garage having a private conversation with Bettie), Rhonda behaved a little like Mother, patronizingly going through all the should'ves and could'ves. Rhonda is a big fan of a pill that makes dogs flea-free. It sounded like a scary thing to me, so I asked her what it did. She didn't know, she had no interest in knowing, she just thought Kim was foolish for having not gotten Sophie a prescription of such pills before leaving for Michigan. This sort of thing, and a failure to immediately find the humour in certain sarcastic things I'd said earlier today, made me realize that I was dealing here with someone whose mind was very different from my own.

Kim was thoroughly alienated by the entire experience. Originally we'd planned to stay in Scottsdale for a few days. But now she wanted to leave tomorrow.

one year ago

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